Kyle Lowry back in the lineup? Check. Good start to the game? Check. Fourth quarter lead? Check. Fourth quarter meltdown and the latest in a growing list of frustrating losses? Double check.

Same old Raptors.

Now here are some thoughts on the game…

76ers 106, Raptors 98

- That fourth quarter was a disgrace. The Raptors got outscored 33-18 despite getting the Sixers into the penalty with 8:13 remaining in the period, clanked a bunch of big free throws when they did get to the line, and looked like a group of children trying to defend Philadelphia thanks to the sieve-like defensive tandem of Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani. Most infuriating of all, Jonas Valanciunas remained on the bench for the entire fourth quarter despite racking up a double-double without recording a foul in 25 minutes of action.

I know people will say it had something to do with Philly going small, which may very well have been the case, but let’s not pretend like this was the first time Valanciunas has sat for important stretches when he deserved to be on the floor. Dwane, you’re too good of a coach to let a lack of faith in a clearly ready rookie hurt you, so stop doing it and for the love of God, FREE JV!

- Valanciunas finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, three assists and just one turnover in those 25 minutes – and again, he didn’t commit a single foul – but yeah, totally reasonable to keep him off the floor when it mattered most. DeMar DeRozan was the other bright spot for the Raptors tonight, finishing with 24 points while continuing to attack the basket, though he took a couple of bad shots in the fourth quarter.

- Jose Calderon and Amir Johnson, two guys I’ve been giving due praise recently, deserve a tonne of equal venom after this game. Sure, Calderon recorded another double-double of 13 points and 12 assists, but his defence (which had improved recently) was as bad as we’ve ever seen it tonight and if you can’t realize that Jose’s clueless D played a big factor in the Raptors losing this game, you either weren’t paying attention or you have your head too far up Calderon’s ass. I mentioned in this very complimentary post about Calderon that I was sure I would have something to complain about soon with regard to his game, and he was pretty quick in giving me something.

As for Amir, it’s nights like these that remind me why I can never fully buy into the love affair so many Raptors fans have with the guy. His hustle and personality are obviously endearing, and there are plenty of nights where Johnson’s effort is a big factor in the Raps pulling out a W (and I commend him on those nights), but there are also too many games like this that his ardent supporters seem to ignore. Four points, three rebounds, six personal fouls and absolutely zero focus in about 21 minutes of action, a few of which came in an important fourth quarter stretch while Valanciunas rode the pine.

The fact that JV didn’t get back into the game adds to my frustration with Amir, and that’s not his fault, but his supporters need to start realizing that his focus on a night to night basis is far from admirable.

- Lowry was playing well in his unexpected return to the lineup and seemed to be getting stronger as the game went along…until the Raptors needed him most. Kyle missed the majority of the team’s aforementioned clanked fourth quarter free throws and wasn’t himself down the stretch (he finished an uncharacteristic 5-of-14 from the field), but the effort was there (he added seven rebounds and seven assists to his 13 points) and he was one of the only Raptors consistently digging in on defence. Toronto will need him to be better, and he will be, but this loss had very little to do with anything Lowry failed to accomplish.

- Oh hey, look, Andrea Bargnani finished with 22 points and seven rebounds tonight! Yeah, too bad it took him 21 shots to get there while he only attempted two free throws (both in the fourth quarter), and missed them both. He formed one hell of an, ummm…”defensive combination” with Calderon though.

- It’s not even that I expected the Raptors to win in Philly, but when you play such fundamentally sound basketball for the majority of three quarters, spot yourself a somewhat comfortable lead (11 points) on the road, and then still find a way to blow such a winnable game, it’s beyond frustrating, which has kind of become the word of the season so far for Raptors fans.

Of the team’s eight losses, three of them have included pathetic fourth quarter collapses. I try to avoid the whole “this team should really have such and such record instead of their actual record” talk, because every team blows leads and suffers the odd confusing loss. But 11 games in, this is getting a little ridiculous, and that’s not just a frustrated Raptors fan’s take

- I’ll try not to take too much away from the 76ers, who improved to 7-4 on the season without any contribution from the unreliable Andrew Bynum. When Philly has their fourth-ranked defence cranked up, they can compete with most teams in the NBA, which is why it’s even more important to take advantage of simple things like your friggin free throws in the fourth quarter of tight games against them.

- For the record, the Raptors have gone to the free throw line 83 times in the last three games, but have only converted on 55 of those opportunities for a paltry 66 per cent success rate. As I mentioned after Saturday’s loss in Boston, if you’re going to complain about not getting calls, then you better sure as hell hit your free throws when you finally do start getting the benefit of the whistle. The frustrating part is that the Raptors entered the three game stretch as one of the best shooting free throw teams in the league. So much for that.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jonas Valanciunas – 11 Pts, 3/6 FG, 5/6 FT, 11 Reb, 3 Ast, 3 Blk, 1 TO in 25:09

76ers Player of the Game: Jrue Holiday – 19 Pts, 9/21 FG, 1/5 3PT, 8 Reb, 12 Ast, 3 Stl, 3 TO in 39:55

The good thing after this sad sack of a loss is that the Raptors get right back at it on Wednesday in Charlotte, and they are an odd 3-1 in the second half of back-to-backs so far this season. Unfortunately, it’s going to take a hell of a lot more than just a win over the Bobcats, which isn’t anywhere near a sure thing by the way, to wash this disgusting taste out of my mouth.

Here’s hoping we all have reason to be in a better mood at this time tomorrow night, and hoping that Valanciunas gets rewarded with hard earned crunch time minutes, because I fear for my own sanity if I have to watch a fourth quarter like that again while a clearly ready and impactful JV sits inexplicably on the bench.

Until then…